Once upon a time, a city girl from New York was invited “down under and down on the farm.” A friend in New South Wales, Australia hosted me for the most memorable eco-experience of my life! Now, I have seen farm animals and been to petting zoos, but I was honestly not prepared for this.
After settling in and recovering from the almost 24 hour travel time, my friend put me to work. First on the list was to help out with the chores. We raked, fed, watered, slopped and carried. I had an opportunity to get a little love from a very noisy, not so cooperative lamb. The repetitive, incessant baaing continued long after I left the barn.
The sun was barely coming up as we shifted our focus to a soil erosion issue. To prevent runoff, stone walls had been created. We would be repairing a section of about ten feet. As we walked out in the bush to retrieve more stones from a prepared pile, I heard a bit of rustling. Surely, it was my imagination, but, in fact it was a kangaroo doe with an ever so curious joey. I was very fascinated; and he seemed just as interested in me.
As we neared mid morning, my friend suggested a much needed break, more for me, I am sure. She disappeared into the house and I thought it best to seek out a shady spot. I found the ideal location just on the other side of a shed. I sat down next to a black cat and started to pet it. My friend came out of the house, handed me a cold Passiona.
This is a delicious passion fruit-flavored soft drink found only in Australia. She casually looked over at me and gave a puzzled look, then burst out laughing. I felt the cat become skittish and attempt to scurry away. I looked down to calm it and realized it was not a cat at all. I was petting a chicken; an oddly furry, strangely shaped docile chicken! After the hysterical laughing, I learned this particular breed is called a Silkie. They have a low egg yield but their calm nature make them the perfect addition to any sustainable farming project such as hers.
As I have an apparent connection to birds, my friend suggested that after lunch we visit the local aviary sanctuary. She explained that due to habitat destruction, the colorful lorikeet population has experienced a steady decline over the past fifteen years. I learned there is direct relation between how many lorikeets visit the sanctuary, and how many are left living in the wild.
When we arrived at the sanctuary, we were asked to prepare the nectar for the lorikeets. The pureed mix of eggs, sea kelp, bee pollen and fruits and vegetables included bananas, pineapple, papaya, parsley, carrots and peas just to name a few. I know what you’re thinking; yes, I tried it and although it was not a culinary delight, it was okay.
I was then told that I would be able to feed the birds and was given a special personal handheld feeder. I was comfortable with that, after all, in New York we have pigeons everywhere. However, this was an experience I will never forget. I stood anxiously awaiting my dinner guests. From a distance, I heard a chatter or two, then squeaking and then squawking. It was like a noisy stadium of hurried angry fans. Lorikeets were everywhere, hundreds, maybe even thousands. It was a lorikeet mess that lasted only about ten minutes, but, I must say I was affected for hours.
That evening, just before turning in, we decided to go for a walk. We crossed paths with a camera shy wallaby and this proved to be the perfect ending to an amazing, event filled day. I looked over at my friend in time for the whispered, “Hooroo, you corker of a wally.” Enough said, and well said; we both chuckled. I learned a lot that day; Aussies love nature and caring for the environment. Most of the time, I have no idea of the meaning behind their slang words and quirky sayings. But, one thing I know sure: Oz truly is God’s country.